Ted Lewin grew up in an old frame house in Buffalo, New York, with two brothers, one sister, two parents, a lion, an iguana, a chimpanzee, and an assortment of more conventional pets. The lion was given to his older brother, Don, while he was traveling as a professional wrestler, and he shipped it home. The family kept Sheba in the basement fruit cellar until Don returned and their mother convinced him to give it to the Buffalo zoo.
Ted always knew he wanted to be an illustrator. As a child he copied the works of illustrators and painters he admired, including N. C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Valazquez and Goya. When it came time to go to art school (Pratt Institute), he needed to earn money to finance his education. So, following in his brothers footsteps, he took a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.